Floating architecture to combat rising water levels

Floating architecture to combat rising water levels
Thai architect Chutayaves Sinthuphan’s amphibious house, designed for Thailand’s National Housing Authority, rests on styrofoam blocks encased in steel and will float with the rising water. // Photo: The Straits TImes

As global warming causes water levels around the world to rise, an old architectural form, floating architecture, is being updated to enable living in flood-prone areas.

Floating architecture has been around for centuries, particularly in low-lying parts of Europe such as the Netherlands.

But its new incarnation, amphibious architecture, is attracting interest, with floating and amphibious homes and schools now being designed for flood plains from the United States’ Louisiana state to Bangladesh.

And over four days ending Saturday, a small gathering of 50 people who represent 80 per cent of the world’s experts in this architectural form shared ideas at the world’s first International Conference on Amphibious Architecture, Design and Engineering, in Bangkok.

The choice of the Thai capital was fitting. Some 150 years ago, it was mostly a floating city and, by all indications, could revert to being one in far less than the next 150 years. Much of the city is below sea level – and it is sinking further.

Among the delegates was Netherlands-based Koen Olthuis, of the firm Waterstudio, which builds floating homes around the world for the super rich. Olthuis wants to bring the same technology to the world’s slums, most of which are on or very near water. []